QPR ~ Loftus Road is a happy place this summer
2011-12 season review ~ Last August QPR crumbled to a 4-0 home defeat to Bolton in our first Premier League game in 15 years. Had anyone told us then that nine months later we would be relegating the same opponents by a single point, hands would have been bitten off. Far from the apparent happy ending of the film documentary on the club, The Four Year Plan, Neil Warnock had waited all summer for investment. But when it became apparent none was forthcoming, he was forced to reshape the squad from largely uninspiring free transfers and out-of-contract players.
Within days of that opening defeat, Tony Fernandes had taken over the club and turned it on its head, ushering in a spirit of openness far removed from the arrogant behaviour of the previous regime. He refunded fans that had paid over-inflated season ticket prices and offered the financial support that allowed first Warnock, and later Mark Hughes, to sign the players that ultimately made the difference.
By the time Hughes was installed in January, and had got to grips with the wildly varied personalities and ability levels at the club, it took an almighty run of five final home victories against the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs, to see us safe.
Against that, our away record was the worst in the division – despite the unlikely heroics of ten men leading until injury-time at Manchester City on the final day – and our nine sendings off equalled Sunderland’s Premier record.
Hughes's name is yet to really ring around Loftus Road, but the signings of Djibril Cissé and Samba Diakité, allied to the extra potential the manager squeezed out of Adel Taarabt (making him add effort to his technique), and Jamie Mackie (vice-versa), have slowly brought people around to the idea that he is doing things properly.
The restoring to the side at centre-back of eventual Player of the Year Clint Hill (an unlikely scenario when he was shipped out to Nottingham Forest on loan in the autumn), was just as important.
Eight senior professionals have been moved on from a bloated squad since the end of the season. Other other peripheral players may find themselves surplus to requirements if Hughes can strengthen further, as would seem likely.
Erstwhile captain Joey Barton, facing a 12-game ban, is another whose future at QPR, and possibly in the game, is presently in some doubt. Few tears are likely to be shed if he is not seen around the place again.
At least this summer the manager is being given preparation time and will not find the support of the board wanting. Hughes’s steely-eyed assessment after the City game that the club would not find itself in the same trouble again while he was in charge was welcomed. Right now, optimism in Shepherd’s Bush is higher than it has been in many a year. Jamie Sellers
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